Letters to Juliet Gary Winick

Letters to Juliet Gary Winick
Sooner or later, most stars-in-training get a movie like Letters to Juliet: a light, formulaic little nothing of a film, usually directed by a hack-y studio journeyman (in this case, Bride Wars' Gary Winick), which serves exclusively as a showcase for the up-and-coming star's charisma. Amanda Seyfried is the raison d'être of Letters to Juliet; she can be awfully charming with the right material, but here she's called upon to do little more than look pretty, smile vacantly and give a strange deer-in-the-headlights gaze. Buster Keaton showed a greater range of expression. For the record, the plot: in fair Verona, Sophie (Seyfried), a The New Yorker fact checker-cum-aspiring writer, is vacationing with her fiancée (Gael Garcia Bernal), who leaves her alone for long periods for business. In her boredom, she visits Juliet's Balcony, where tourists post missed-connection letters on the wall, and ingratiates herself with the four painfully stereotypical elderly Italian ladies who respond to these notes. One day, Sophie improbably finds and responds to 50-year-old letter by Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) bemoaning the end of a short affair with Lorenzo (Franco Nero). Inexplicably, Claire realizes that Lorenzo was the love of her life, much to the (completely understandable) chagrin of Charlie (Christopher Egan), her blandly attractive grandson. Claire decides to visit every Lorenzo Bartolini in and around the Verona area, bafflingly accompanied by her grandson (doesn't this guy have a job or something?) and Sophie (who somehow believes all this would make a great The New Yorker story, and whose vacation seems to last as long as the narrative requires). Of course, Claire and Charlie's endless bickering and complete lack of chemistry is just a prelude to contrived love. Nobody, least of all Seyfried, ever does anything unexpected, or says anything memorable, or shows any spark of life in this completely disposable dead zone of a film, although the message about the enduring power of true love might still resonate with anyone who thinks a brief fling at age 15 could be revived into marriage at age 65. As fate would have it, I watched Letters to Juliet the same day as reading a news article reporting that Terry Gilliam, that inconsistent but sometimes brilliant filmmaker, once again saw financing collapse on his dream project, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. This led to some wistful reflection on Orson Welles, who was also unable to get any films off the ground in the late period of his career. I'd just like to gently suggest to the makers of Letters to Juliet that, considering how many talented, passionate people dream of being able to make a movie, it's a tad insulting to blow one's golden opportunity on this. DVD extras include a curiously self-congratulatory making-of documentary and commentary. (E1)